Guest contribution by Arthur Green
Here’s something not a single elected official in Timberlane knows: Timberlane staffing was reduced by 24 full-time equivalent positions (FTEs) this academic year.
I obtained this information through a Right to Know request of the NH Department of Education for Timberlane’s A12b filings. These filings are not given to your elected officials, they are not posted on any Tiumberlane website, and yet they are of critical importance in understanding what the administration won’t volunteer.
What is the incentive to keep you and elected officials in the dark about staffing? Well… when the truth comes out, the fraught threats of disaster at the prospect of a default budget vanish.
Do you remember the tumultuous days in April, after the wise voters handed TRSD a default budget? WMUR reported that 62 employees had been given pink slips. Thanks to this reporting, the school board became aware of the layoffs and stepped in to agree to a reduction of 15.
The actual reduction in force was 24. What we don’t know is how much of this reduction was by layoffs. You would think the school board and the budget committee would want to know. You would also think they would be mentioning that Timberlane lost 81 students this year despite dire predictions of a student population boom in Sandown. (Remember the urgency of installing a portable at Sandown North two years ago? Mr. Boyle and the board saw through that nonsense to their credit. Seems the professional demographic predictions were correct after all!)
Only this April the board was told that the salary and benefit savings due to layoffs would be largely offset by higher unemployment insurance costs, and therefore the number of layoffs needed would be higher than apparent. In fact, the unemployment insurance cost to the end of October 2018 is $3,548, and hardly differs from the $2,998 which had been expended at the same time last year.
Here’s what actually happened:
- Teaching staff down by 14,
- Admin and other personnel down by 10
- Student enrollment down by 81.
- Teachers down by 7.4, “Non-teaching professionals” down by 7.6
- TRHS staff down by 12, Atkinson and Danville each down by 5
- The Learning Center (Sandown Central) staff increased by 3.5
Conclusions I draw from this
- Clearly the warnings of disaster from a default budget were wildly exaggerated.
- Elected officials and administration should be treating staffing level as a key element of management and academic discipline. We are happy to see that the TRSD has finally taken its first substantial step this year to align staffing to falling enrollment, albeit under the pressure of the default budget.
- There remains considerable opportunity to operate TRSD on a much leaner staffing model which emulates some of the stronger school districts in the state. Last year we showed the feasibility of an overall staff reduction of almost 100.
Let’s go through the details school-by school. With each school, I’m including a column showing the “feasible” staffing level that I worked out last December by comparison with similar schools in strongly performing school districts.
With the reduction of 5 staff (including 2 teachers and 2 SPED aides) Atkinson Academy is operating at a staffing level with which I can’t quarrel. The current level of 61.5 FTEs is very close to the “feasible” staff count of 60, and TRSD’s administration has even taken reductions in categories such as SPED teaching personnel which I left unchanged in my “feasible” table. I’ll take this as bragging rights validating my analysis.
After a reduction of 5 FTEs, Danville still has more staff than Atkinson despite 86 fewer enrolled students (255 students enrolled at Danville compared to 341 at Atkinson). As an example of the overstaffing, Harold Martin school in Hopkinton, with 276 students in 2016/17, had 9 classrooms (excluding Pre and K) and 11.4 Regular Ed classroom teachers… 2.4 Regular Ed teachers over and above the basic home room count, to cover the specialties like gym and arts. Danville has 11 classrooms and 19 Regular Ed teachers – 7 available to cover specialty areas. Would anyone argue that Hopkinton is not one of the best school districts in the state? Or that the educational programming there is substandard?
Pollard has barely changed from last year – enrollment up 4, and staff FTE down 0.5. Pollard’s is significantly overstaffed by comparison to North Londonderry, even after making allowance for the staffing needs of the Pre and K program.
Sandown Central staffing is notable this year because the 3.5 FTE staff increase now exceeds the staffing from the final year before it was “closed” (35.5 FTE in 2014/15). Were the elected officials aware of the creation of 3.5 new positions while operating on default budget, and with the same enrollment as the prior year? Does anyone now believe that Sandown Central was “closed” to save money?
Also, note that for Sandown Central I did not evaluate a “feasible” staffing reduction, because I was not able to identify a suitable comparison school. However, keeping in mind that, except for 20 full-day kindergarten students, most if not all of the remaining students are half-day only, the need for 14.5 professional staff should be questioned by the school board – if only they had this information, and which is why they aren’t given it.
Timberlane Regional Middle School
Timberlane Regional High School